London – asPresident Joe Biden made the decision on Monday following the withdrawal of Russian troops from the city of Bucha in Ukraine .
“He’s a war criminal,” said Mr. Biden. “I think it’s a war crime. … He should be held accountable.”
The United States had already formally accused Russian forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine, and a number of national and international organizations have launched investigations and gathered evidence to build cases. But could Putin himself ever face a war crimes trial?
What are war crimes?
There are a number of international treaties – the Geneva Convention and the Geneva Protocol being two of the most important – that set out international legal norms for the conduct of war. Any breach of these standards is a war crime that can be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and can result in prison terms for the perpetrators.
National governments can also, unilaterally or in partnership, conduct their own investigations and prosecutions of war crimes based on their own laws or the principle of universal jurisdiction, which designates certain war crimes as so extraordinary that they can shake and shake the conscience of all mankind, therefore, everywhere be prosecuted.
Deliberate attacks on civilians are war crimes, as are “methods of war that are inherently indiscriminate and simply cannot distinguish between civilians and armed forces,” said Jim Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Foundations’ Justice Initiative. said CBS News.
Goldston said there are many indications that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine.
“There’s a tremendous effort now being made … to suck up and organize all this information that’s looking at where military forces are, what the targets are, what structures are being attacked, and that’s being reported along with gathering testimonies from people who were in those.” areas are being harassed,” he said.
Any information collected could be used as evidence in possible war crimes trials before the International Criminal Court or separate tribunals.
“One of the challenges in this type of investigation, however, will be showing the connection between what is happening on the ground and those who have military or political responsibility for ordering these attacks,” Goldston said.
Could Putin be tried for war crimes?
“Traditionally, in international criminal courts, it was very difficult to endure [war crimes and crimes against humanity] way up,” Philippe Sands, law professor and director of the Center on International Courts and Tribunals at University College London, told BBC News, CBS News’ partner network.
Sands is among a number of academics and former world leaders calling for the establishment of a special international court modeled on theheld after World War II for Nazi leaders to hold Russia’s leaders accountable for the crime of “aggression” in Ukraine.
“A crime of aggression is waging an illegal war,” Sands said. “It’s part of international law, it’s part of Ukrainian law, and it’s pretty clearly stated in the present case because there’s no justification.”
In case ofBarring an extremely unlikely referral by the United Nations Security Council, where Russia has the power of veto, the ICC has no jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, requiring a separate tribunal for each charge. But given the waging of an illegal war, it might be easier to blame it on Putin himself.
“The crime of aggression is a leadership crime almost by definition,” Goldston said. “Only leaders have the power to actually invade another state, or a small circle of people around them who have the political authority to actually make that happen.”
Should such a case arise, it is still unclear whether Putin himself could be successfully indicted or what an indictment could mean for him.
“What if there was a tribunal to indict him? It would face challenges. First, the immunity of the head of state. The law on the immunity of a head of state will certainly be discussed depending on the jurisdiction The charges. And then just the physical question of how you would get custody of someone like that is huge,” Goldston said.
“But there are detrimental effects of the indictment, just prior to incarceration,” Goldston added. Reference to the charges against the former political and military leaders of theHe said: “The indictments themselves, the public nature of the indictments, I think it’s fair to say, served to stigmatize them, to isolate them politically, to make it untenable for them to take part in political negotiations and diplomatic negotiations. So indictments alone can have an effect, even close to arrest.”